The following is a guest post from John Finger who covered Roy Halladay's playoff no-hitter for CSNPhilly at the time.
We knew it almost immediately, as soon as we took our seats in the press box. We knew we were going to see something special.
By the end of the first inning, we knew we were going to be witnessing history.
From 2010 and even to 2013, we knew we were going to see something pretty special whenever Roy Halladay took the mound to throw a baseball. We saw it during spring training where Roy was wrapping up his day by the time most of the writer types were rolling out of bed. Every day, from before the sun rose or even after ball games, we saw the drive.
Roy Halladay worked harder, smarter and better than anyone we ever saw before. He was revered by his teammates and the fans and never took anything for granted.
It was obvious.
So, when he pitched a perfect game in Miami and made the writers wait 45 minutes while he rode a stationary bike, we knew it was no act. And when he threw that no-hitter against the Reds in the first game of the 2010 postseason — his first-ever appearance in the playoffs — we had a sense almost immediately.
“I wonder how many times I would have struck out if I would have kept going up there,” Scott Rolen said after going 0 for 3 with three strikeouts against Halladay that night in October 2010. Teammates for parts of two seasons in Toronto, Rolen knew what we were watching.
He knew it was inevitable.
“Being his teammate, [a no-hitter] could happen every time he goes out there. You know that,” Rolen said on Oct. 6, 2010. "You don't expect it, though. We didn't draw it up like that in our hitters' meetings, but we had our hands full. He's the best pitcher in baseball in my opinion."
Joey Votto, who grounded out three times that day, might have explained it the best.
“When you’re trying to thread a needle at the plate, it's miserable. It's not fun up there trying to hit nothing,” Votto said.
But if you thought for a moment that Roy Halladay's legacy was built around perfect games, no-hitters, the pre-dawn workouts and reverence from baseball's toughest audience (its players), you didn't get it.
Roy Halladay is the pitcher who went from the majors to the low minors in 2001. After appearing in 57 games over three seasons for the Toronto Blue Jays, Halladay was sent from the majors to Single A.
Think about this for a second — Halladay was a first-round draft pick out of high school, made it to the big leagues at age 21 and came one out away from throwing a no-hitter in just his second big-league start. He had the ethic and the pedigree and was sent from the peak of baseball to the lowest rung of organized baseball. It was the type of development that would devastate most players and end the career of a regular guy.
But there was nothing about Roy Halladay that was normal. Nothing at all.
Instead of licking his wounds, Halladay reinvented himself from top to bottom. He took the demotion and refocused his commitment to the game. He worked with Harvey Dorfman, a psychologist, and author of "The Mental ABC's of Pitching," and remodeled his pitching delivery.
He went back to zero. Hit the reset button and started from scratch. So after reinventing and rebuilding himself, Halladay was back in the majors by July of 2001. With his new pitching motion, Halladay developed more movement with his fastball and came up with a sinker and a cutter.
The rest is well known. Two Cy Young Awards, a perfect game, a no-hitter in the playoffs and the chance to witness greatness every time he took the mound. Every time Halladay did something, you inched up closer in your seat, you noticed how the air smelled and where you were at the exact moment.
You savored it.
That's just what Halladay did when he had retired from baseball. He threw himself into his life as a retired dad of two teenaged boys and a husband to his wife, Brandi. He coached the kid's baseball team, he took sports psychology classes at the University of South Florida so he could give back to budding baseball players the way Harvey Dorfman mentored him.
The way Halladay pitched and worked out was the way he lived his retired life. Judging from his Twitter account, no one enjoyed retirement more than Roy Halladay. His humor was as sure as his mastery of the strike zone. He took selfies of himself in a t-shirt and shorts next to an unsuspecting fan in a "Halladay" shirsey. He went to the zoo with Zoo With Roy.
“We will all remember Roy for his amazing moments on the field, how he dialed it up in the most important situations, how he competed and left his heart on the field every time he took the ball,” said childhood friend and big-league teammate, Brad Lidge. “But he was also an incredible dad, an incredible husband and an incredible teammate. He was quiet and thoughtful but knew how to be playful. I competed against Roy since we were in Little League together and I will remember him in that way, and as a man. It was a privilege to know him and his family and to have been his teammate. Our hearts go out to Brandy, his kids and his family.”
He flew planes, logging more than 800 hours in the air. He had his instrument rating, his multi-engine rating and was working on getting his commercial rating. He wanted to teach his sons about flying, just like he showed them about baseball.
And life. Roy Halladay proved that it's never too late for the no-hitters. Perseverance has its rewards. You can re-invent yourself.
Just as long as you give it your all.